Perhaps it’s a matter of putting up with the devil you know, since the devil you don’t know could be worse. Perhaps it’s a matter of inertia—finding it hard to make a change. It could even be that you find any relationship, no matter how dysfunctional, better than nothing.
The truth is, you have to get out of your dysfunctional relationship before you can become available for a good one. You can’t be in two places at one time. This is, of course, true physically. But it’s also true emotionally. If you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, you invest a lot of time and energy in it. Only when you’re free of it will you be able to experience a positive, loving relationship.
First, you have to realize that you are, indeed, in a dysfunctional relationship. All of us, to some degree, sacrifice for our partners in one way or another. It’s called compromise, and it’s healthy. When both partners can take care of their own needs and each others’ as well, then it’s a good relationship. It becomes unhealthy when one person is more important at the expense of the other. That’s when it’s time to take stock of your situation.
Here are some hard truths to consider:
- You can’t really handle it. You are assuming responsibility for making the relationship work. You bend over backwards. You learn never to do anything that might trigger her volatility. You learn to edit yourself so you won’t say anything to touch her off. You manipulate and maneuver to avoid conflict. You walk on eggshells on a constant basis. You put your feelings on permanent hold. And you can’t be your real self in the relationship, so it isn’t much of one, is it?
- Your partner doesn’t really love you. Oh, he loves controlling you. He may also love the security of having you, or the companionship, or the sex. Or even the perverse intimacy of the tension and anxiety he causes you to suffer. He gets some payoff from the relationship, and he loves what you bring to the relationship. As long as you bring it.
- You don’t really love your partner. This is the toughest truth to take, but there it is. You want to say, ‘Of course I love him. I sacrifice everything for him—my own feelings, my self-worth, my life.” And you do, but you get a payoff, too. You have a need to be needed. Or you need to save someone to feel you are worthy. Or you have some void you’re trying to fill. But the truth is, you will not find happiness by trying to fix someone else. You must first fix yourself.
The truth is, it takes two to tango. If you are in a dysfunctional relationship, you need to stop the dance, and face reality. Yes, your partner is to blame. But you need to own your part, too, and that means facing up to some hard truths. Once you’ve done that, you can be open and available for a truly loving relationship.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.